Tension building in the Taiwan Strait

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Tension building in the Taiwan Strait

The author is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Taiwan Strait is narrow. The shortest distance is 128 kilometers (80 miles) from Pingtan Island, Fujian Province, China, to Hsinchu Port, Northern Taiwan. Tensions are rising again in the strait, as U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a plan to visit Taiwan in August.

In the past three months, American politicians and military personnel made six visits to Taiwan — former Defense Secretary Mark Esper on July 18, Sen. Rick Scott on July 10, the U.S. congressional delegation on May 31, and Naval Adm. Michael Studeman of the Indo-Pacific Command on May 25th. Each time, China held armed demonstrations and warned not to elevate tension. But this time, the mood is different.

The Chinese foreign ministry asserted that there should not be any official exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan, reminding America of the One China principle. It also said, “We firmly oppose any action seriously damaging China’s sovereignty and affecting the political foundation of China-U.S. relations. If the U.S. is going its own way, China will take strong actions, and the U.S. must take full responsibility for consequences.” The expression of resting all responsibilities on another country was used over the Diaoyu Islands dispute with Japan in 2010 and over Lithuania normalizing diplomatic relations with Taiwan last year.

Former Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin’s comment on the Chinese government goes a step further. He wrote on Twitter, “If Speaker Pelosi dares to visit Taiwan, it will be a major event, and she will be the enemy of China’s division” and “She will have to take historic responsibility over the possibility of a military clash in the Taiwan Strait.” In 1997, U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan, but he belonged to a different party than former president Bill Clinton, and this time, the visit will be an open provocation of the U.S. against the entirety of China. Hu even said, “At the cost of military confrontation, People’s Liberation Army fighter jets will fly over Taiwan,” and “If the U.S. and Taiwan want a full-scale war, the time of liberation will come.”

On July 19, when U.S. destroyer Benfold passed through the Taiwan Strait, China had its third aircraft carrier Shandong sail through. From July 23, an extensive Chinese military drill is conducted in the South China Sea for four days. When asked about Pelosi’s visit, President Joe Biden avoided answering directly. He said that the U.S. military didn’t think it was a good idea. As China has turned to fighting with no retreat amid a power contest, can a visit to Taiwan by a U.S. speaker happen?
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